The Retributioner - a C. J. McCallister story
This story is an entry for Tyger's Electric Dreams Short Story Contest 17 by @tygertyger. The paramaters of the story are 1000 - 5000 words and it must contain these 3 prompts:
#1 Ufo’s have shown up over every county on earth and have vaporized the governments. After this was done no more action was taken and they have been hovering ever since. It has been 3 years. Every attempt to communicate has been ignored until now. What has happened on earth since and what is the nature of the communication and it’s consequences and who the hell is in those spaceships?
#2 the story must include the sentence “ Joey enjoyed his weekly Sunday romp with the green street Hookers“
#3 the story must include a dead man in a bathtub ”
Quite a challenge! If you'd like to participate or just read the stories that are entered, here is the link.
I turned the page on the calendar on my battered desk and the date jarred a memory. Three years ago today was the devastating WAI (that’s Worldwide Alien Invasion for those of you not up to date on your acronyms). Feeling this day worthy of some introspection and a shot of my favorite Johnnie Walker, I pulled out my desk drawer and sat the bottle and the shot glass in front of me.
The world has moved on. With aliens having destroyed all the governments worldwide, we have flourished. New ideas, new technology, and best of all, no wars. Seems like we humans don’t really hate each other when there are no central governments to goad us to war for their own gain.
The downside of this in my own life is that my job, bounty hunter, is pretty much obsolete. How things have changed! With no court system or trials, there are no criminals skipping out on their bail for me to chase down. But I’ve adapted, just like my fellow humans have been adapting all over the world. Crime hasn’t stopped, criminals are still here, but now we have new ways of dealing with it. Punishment fits the crime these days, determined by a random lottery drawing of peers to make the decision.
Take yesterday’s case, for instance. Joey enjoyed his weekly Sunday romp with the green street Hookers, but last Sunday he went too far. He roughed up one of the girls pretty extensively in a scenario he hadn’t purchased, and to make it worse, she wasn’t rated for physical violence. So a complaint was filed against him. The information packets went out to the randomly selected Peer Jury. The verdict came back “guilty as charged”. He hadn’t bothered to appeal, knowing he was guilty. That’s where my new job came in. My office door used to say “C. J. McCallister, Bounty Hunter”. Now it reads “C. J. McCallister, Retributioner”. A whole new category of livelihood.
My cell phone buzzed just as I threw back my first shot of Johnnie. It was a text message from the Peer Jury committee chairman. The one who facilitates my payments, so I got right on that, thinking it was my confirmation for payment for Joey’s retribution.
The text read: What the hell did you do now, McCallister? Get over to 1414 Goggle Drive right now and clean up your mess. Payment will be made upon task completion.
The message made no sense, I had no idea what Brent thought I’d done this time. Granted, I may have made a mess or two in the past; sometimes I really enjoy my work in making the punishment fit the crime. But I just gave Joey a beating to match the one he’d given the girl, with a little extra lesson thrown in. No mess other than his face.
The parking garage was quiet until my Harley roared to life and I thundered down the exit ramp. I pulled up in front of the address and didn’t see anything unusual. My internal sentry was tingling its alarm though, and I’ve learned to pay attention to it. Surprised that the door was unlocked, I pushed it open cautiously and peered inside. Something was definitely off here. The smell of blood curdled the stale air. The hair on the back of my neck seemed to crackle with menacing electricity.
The house appeared empty. One by one I searched the rooms until I came upon what looked like a dead man in a bathtub. I said “looked like” because other than a huge pool of blood and a hairy arm hanging down the outside of the tub, there wasn’t much recognizable about the mostly skinless lump lying in the bathtub.
Why did Brent send me here? This certainly wasn’t MY mess. But as I stepped closer and examined the one remaining intact body part, I saw the distinctive skull ring on the middle finger of the dangling hand. Oh shit! That ring - same one Joey was wearing when I beat some sense into him yesterday. But he was definitely still wearing his skin when I left him.
The earlier shot of whiskey roiled in my stomach and threatened to launch itself back up. I fought down the urge (not about to waste good whiskey) and ran some cold water from the sink to splash on my face. This went way beyond retribution, this was torture, mutilation, murder! And I apparently was being seen as the perpetrator.
A high-frequency wave vibrated against my eardrums and made my teeth ache. A shimmering appeared behind me as I looked up at the mirror over the vanity. Incredulously, I watched as the shimmer coalesced into a tall, thin stick-like creature with multiple eyes and several appendages whose function was unclear at the moment. Before I could get over my shock and bolt for the door, a probe shot out from the creature and punctured my neck.
“Ouch! WTF!” My hand flew to my neck and felt the burning spot, expecting to find a gaping hole, but there was nothing there. Well, it didn’t take a genius to figure out this thing was from those alien ships that had been hanging around for the past three years. After remaining totally silent all this time, it seemed now they wanted to talk.
I wondered if I was about to become the next skinless hunk of meat, but I only felt a soothing calm radiating from the being. As my initial shock and fear subsided I found I could hear the thing speaking to me within my mind.
“We have been watching you earthlings find your way in the aftermath of our lesson. You have done well in developing into reasonable beings again. We find your Jury of Peers to be an adequate solution to self-rule. We are ready to depart and begin our next rehabilitation project in the Oran Galaxy.”
“The final stage of Earth’s rehabilitation ends today. We have chosen a hundred subjects, such as yourself, to carry on our work and keep humans on the correct path. There will be no second chance. If the human race returns to their former destructive ways toward the planet and each other we will return and annihilate the human race. There are plenty of other species we can use to repopulate this world.”
I felt a flood of questions race through my mind but before I could give voice to them, the being answered within my brain.
“The implant I injected you with allows us to communicate in this manner. We will be able to check in on you from anywhere in the universe. You will not, however, be able to contact us. The reason you, and the others like you, were chosen is for your unique ability to “mind meld” as you call it. We have studied you all carefully and made the final selections. The others are being instructed now just as you are. We will send out a final communication worldwide with the announcement of the creation of the League of 100. You and the other members will have final say on all matters of retribution and you will keep this planet in control.”
Why this was the most ludicrous thing I’d ever heard. I’m just an ex-bounty hunter with maybe a few tricks up my sleeve, but I’m nowhere on the level of being an enforcer for a big chunk of this spinning rock we called Earth. League of 100? Sounds like a Marvel comic book turned movie to me. And here I am standing in a bathroom with an alien and a dead body in a bathtub. Nothing could be crazier!
“You underestimate your own talent; your body is small but your mind is powerful. We will help you discover your strength and enhance your mental reach. Your first assignment will be to locate the perpetrator of this heinous murder and dispense the proper retribution. All humans must be made aware that this behavior will not be tolerated.”
I watched in silence as the shimmering body grew fainter and faded away, its final transmission, “We’ll be watching.”